Category: History

RIP: Sonny Barger

Sonny Barger, one of the founding members of the Hell’s Angels, died yesterday from cancer.  Sonny Barger’s notoriety as a Hell’s Angels leader (including being part of the Rolling Stones security at the Altamont concert where Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane was knocked unconscious and audience member Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death) brought him into the public eye.  Mr. Barger appeared several documentaries about the Hell’s Angels and other motorcycle clubs, three feature films, but is probably known for his reoccurring role on Sons of Anarchy where he played Lenny ‘The Pimp’ Janowitz.  Sonny Barger also wrote or co-wrote six books.

I first became aware of Sonny Barger through his leadership of the Hell’s Angels and the wild stories and documentaries about him/them.  His addition to the cast of Sons of Anarchy added a level of authenticity to the show.  I’ve read a couple of his books.  He lived his life as he wanted.  His final message posted on his Facebook page was:

If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I’m gone. I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing. I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club. Although I’ve had a public persona for decades, i’ve mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family, and close friends.

Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer. But also know that in the end, I was surrounded by what really matters: My wife, Zorana, as well as my loved ones. Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor. – Sonny

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sonny Barger’s family, friends and fans.

“The Untouchables” (1987) Starring Kevin Costner, Sean Connery & Robert De Niro / Z-View

The Untouchables (1987)

Director: Brian De Palma

Screenplay by:  David Mamet based on The Untouchables by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley

Starring:  Kevin Costner, Sean Connery, Robert De Niro, Charles Martin Smith, Andy Garcia, Billy Drago and Patricia Clarkson

Tagline:  What are you prepared to do?

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers

Elliott Ness (Costner) is a Federal Treasury agent sent to Chicago to take down Al Capone (De Niro) and his criminal enterprises.  Due to widespread corruption in the Chicago Police Department, Ness creates a team of “Untouchables” consisting of a Jim Malone (Connery) a street cop; George Stone (Garcia) a young police cadet and Oscar Wallace (Smith) a Treasury bookkeeper.  With their lives and families in danger, Ness and his Untouchables find themselves in Capone’s crosshairs as they move forward with their mission.

The Untouchables is arguably director Brian DePalma’s finest film.  It is the movie that made Kevin Costner and Andy Garcia stars.  Sean Connery won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Jim Malone.  The film was also nominated for 3 additional Oscars: Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design and Best Original Score.

I absolutely love The Untouchables.  Everything comes together beautifully – the screenplay, the director, the cast and the music mesh to create a magical movie experience.  David Mamet wrote the screenplay based on the book by (the real Elliott Ness) and Oscar Fraley.  While the film is a fictionalized account, it’s not a documentary, so let’s not pick that nit.  The film’s direction features DePalma at his peak.  There are so many memorable scenes – Ness and Malone meeting for the first time, Malone’s way of getting a Capone bookkeeper to talk, Ness’ confrontation with Capone on the staircase, Nitti and another thug at Malone’s apartment, Ness and the baby carriage, Stone saving the day and Ness and Nitti on the rooftop – to name several.

Connery is at his best and deserving of his Oscar.  Kevin Costner is perfect as the straight arrow cop who tests his limits when he discovers what he is willing to do to bring down Capone.  Andy Garcia is spot on as the cocky because he’s that good cop.  Charles Martin Smith plays what looks like a stereotypical bookkeeper until the action starts.  Billy Drago has a smaller but vitally important role as Frank Nitti, Capone’s number one hitman.

If you’ve never seen The Untouchables, you should rectify that as soon as possible.  If you have seen it, then you know I’m not exaggerating when I say The Untouchables is worthy of a 5 of 5 star rating.

“We Own This City” (2022) / Z-View

We Own This City (2022)

Developed by:  George Pelecanos, David Simon

Teleplays by:  George Pelecanos (Parts 1 & 5), David Simon (Parts 1 & 6), Ed Burns (Parts 2 & 4), William F. Zorzi (Parts 2 & 4),  D. Watkins (Part 3),

Directed by:  Reinaldo Marcus Green

Starring:  Jon Bernthal, Wunmi Mosaku, Jamie Hector, Josh Charles, McKinley Belcher III, Darrell Britt-Gibson, Rob Brown, Don Harvey and Seth Hurwitz.

Tagline:  None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers.

We Own This City is based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Justin Fenton, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun.  We Own This City follows a task force created to deal with rising crime.  Baltimore PD’s shining star, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins builds a team to take guns and drugs off the streets. Although successful, under Jenkins’ watch, the strike force steals drugs and money from their busts.  They also plant evidence and lie under oath.  Numerous complaints leads to an investigation which shows widespread corruption throughout the force and gives lengthy jail sentences to those sworn to protect and serve.

We Own This City features excellent writing, direction and an amazing cast lead by Jon Bernthal (who should receive an Emmy nomination).  Josh Charles is great as the unlikable Daniel Hersl.  McKinley Belcher III from Ozark and The Passage, is always good. Seth Hurwitz is perfect as the slimy bail bondsman who helps Wayne Jenkins move stolen drugs.   Kudos also to Kris Bowers for his music.   We Own This City easily earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Birth of the Living Dead” aka “Year of the Living Dead” (2013) / Z-View

Birth of the Living Dead aka Year of the Living Dead (2013)

Director:  Rob Kuhns

Written by: Rob Kuhns

Starring:  George A. Romero, Elvis Mitchell, Mark Harris, Gale Anne Hurd and Bill Hinzman.

Tagline:  1968. Peace. Love. And the undead.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Rob Kuhns goes behind the scenes on the making of Night of the Living Dead.  George Romero is interviewed and some of his earlier commercials are shared.  Elvis Mitchell, Mark Harris, Gale Anne Hurd, Bill Hinzman and others share the impact Night of the Living Dead made on them.  If you’re a George Romero or Night of the Living Dead fan, then this is for you.  I give it 4 of 5 stars.

“D.B. Cooper: Where Are You?” – The Documentary Trailer is Here!

I had just turned 13 when D.B. Cooper disappeared with $200,000 in cash.  He jumped out of a jet at night – something even trained parachutists wouldn’t have tried.  A portion of the money was found, but D.B. Cooper never was.

Deal me in!

In 1971, a skyjacker parachutes off a plane with a bag of stolen cash — and gets away with it. Decades later, his identity remains a compelling mystery.

“The Wind and the Lion” (1975) / Z-View

The Wind and the Lion (1975)

Director:  John Milius

Screenplay:   John Milius

Starring:  Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, Brian Keith, John Huston, Geoffrey Lewis and Steve Kanaly.

Tagline: Between the wind and the lion is the woman. For her, half the world may go to war.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers

The year is 1904.  In Morroco, Germany, France and Britain are trying to gain influence with the Sultan Abdelaziz.  Mulai Ahmed el Raisuli (Connery) wants his country free of the influence of other countries and the corrupt Sultan.  In an effort to create an international incident and inspire an uprising against the Sultan, Raisuli kidnaps a visiting American citizen, Eden Pedecaris (Bergin) and her two young children.

Theodore Roosevelt (Keith) is running for re-election and plans to use the rescue of Eden and her children to help his campaign.  Despite the fears that sending in the marines will cause, Roosevelt does just that.  Eden and her children lives hang in the balance as German soldiers, US marines, Moroccans and Raisuli’s followers prepare for war.

John Milius has created a rousing story based on true incidents but fictionalized for the screen.  Sean Connery is charismatic as Raisuli,  Candice Bergin plays a smart woman and she’s never looked prettier.  Brian Keith was born to play Teddy Roosevelt.  If there are any nits to pick with The Wind and the Lion they take a back seat to Milius’ power as a director and storyteller.  The Wind and the Lion rates 4 of 5 stars.

“Mind Over Murder” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

Here we have the poster and trailer for Mind Over Murder.  I don’t know this case, but plan to tune in.

From acclaimed filmmaker Nanfu Wang, the HBO Original six-part documentary series #MindOverMurder chronicles the bizarre and psychologically complex story of six individuals who were convicted for the 1985 murder of a beloved 68- year-old grandmother, Helen Wilson, in Beatrice, Nebraska. Despite five of the individuals originally confessing to the crime, the “Beatrice Six” as they became known, were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2009, a turn of events that divided the rural town and incensed the family of Helen Wilson. As the filmmakers track the case from the murder, through investigation, trial, exoneration and two civil suits, shifting perspectives cloud the truth; a stranger-than-fiction tale emerges that raises salient questions about the reliability of confessions and memory in criminal cases.

Time! Fascinating Facts That You May Not Know!

Kerry Wolfe at Mental Floss posted an interesting article titled 28 Fascinating Facts About Time.  Before you click over, here are three of my favorites…

We can thank the railroad industry for standardizing our time zones.  Until the 19th century, towns and villages synchronized their clocks to the local solar noon. This created thousands of local times that all varied and made scheduling transportation a major headache. Train schedules in different cities had to list dozens of arrival and departure times for each train to account for all the mini time zones. On November 18, 1883, railroad companies in the United States and Canada began using a system very similar to the standardized time zones we still use today. In the UK, the railroad companies began using a standard London-based time in 1840. (I didn’t know this.  It’s crazy that it was the railroad industry that brought standard times zones about! – Craig)

Though a lot of people believe daylight saving time was adopted to keep farmers happy, that’s a myth.  The first person to seriously advocate for daylight saving time was an entomologist who wanted more sunlit hours to look for insects after work in the summer. He proposed his idea to a scientific society in New Zealand in 1895. (Wow!  I had always been taught daylight saving time was brought about to give farmer’s more daylight!  Another myth busted. – Craig)

Even with the advent of standardized time, people still struggled to keep their clocks in sync.  One London family used this to their advantage, and made a living by selling people the time. An astronomer named John Belville would set his pocket watch to the time at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. He would then travel around the city and visit his network of subscribers, who paid to set their own clocks by Belville’s pocket watch. After Belville died in 1856, his wife, and then later their daughter Ruth, carried on the tradition. Ruth continued to sell the time until World War II. By then she was in her eighties, and a couple of factors led to her timely retirement: Improved technology had made her role less important, and the war was making treks around London too dangerous.  (Hats off to John Belville for figuring out how to use his pocket watch to provide for his family.  Crazy that his wife was still able to do this as late as the start of World War II — that’s less than 100 years ago.  If there is money to be made, someone will figure out a way. – Craig)

Rarely Told Behind-the-Scenes Facts of the Assassination of President Kennedy!

If you have any interest at all in the Assassination of President Kennedy, you will want to check out Ten Tales from Dallas’s Parkland Hospital, Where JFK Died by Christopher Dale at Listverse. 

Normally I would pick out my three favorite items from the list.  I won’t this time because each fact/tale of the ten is rare and interesting.  Without giving too much away, Dale’s behind-the-scenes of the Kennedy Assassination tells…

  • Why Jackie Kennedy wouldn’t immediately let the Secret Service take President Kennedy into the emergency room.
  • Why doctors performed procedures that they knew were useless and what Jackie had for them.
  • What a doctor said and immediately regretted.
  • How one of the procedures the doctors performed destroyed potential evidence.
  • Prank calls received at the hospital once it was announced that President Kennedy had died.
  • Why the Last Rites were performed even though the President had died, and how the Priest disobeyed warnings from the Secret Service
  • Why Vice President Johnson delayed an official announcement that President Kennedy had died.
  • Why local authorities struggled with Secret Service agents in an effort to take control of President Kennedy’s body.
  • What happened when President Kennedy’s suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was taken to the same hospital as President Kennedy after being shot.
  • The contents of the self-serving memo released by Parkland Hospital Administrator Charles Jack “CJ” Price less than a week after the murder of President Kennedy.

Hats of to Christopher Dale!

Evidence Points to NEW Suspect as the ZODIAC KILLER!

Speculation as to who the Zodiac Killer was, is always a popular topic.  There are so many folks who have done extensive research and most often they come up with the usual suspects.  Not so with Jarett Kobek.  Kobek did the research, but facts led him down a different path to a new, viable suspect named Paul Doerr. 

Tim Molloy at MovieMaker provides an excellent overview of Kobek’s findings in his piece Zodiac Killer Revealed by His Love of Comic Books, Author Says.  Molloy’s article is definitely worth a read.  It details how a card sent to police/newspapers listed four ways the Zodiac planned to kill: “By Fire, By Gun, By Knife, By Rope”.  Many Zodiac researchers linked the quote to the 1952 Western comic book, Tim Holt #30.  Kobek took this finding and ran with it.

Kobek realized that the number of comic book collectors at that time was relatively small.  His next step was to start researching comic book fanzines of the era.  Paul Doerr’s name came up in letters to the fan magazines.  His writing style and the content of his letters struck Kobek as being similar to the Zodiac’s.  Then Kobek discovered that Doerr was on the mailing list for renaissance fairs.  Of course in one of the Zodiac attacks he was wearing a Medieval executioner’s hood.  In other letters Doerr talks of killing and making a bomb.  Click over to Molloy’s piece for full details.

Jarett Kobek’s book, How to Find Zodiac lays out the evidence leading to his belief that Doerr was the Zodiac Killer.  Here’s the synopsis…

“A scruffy masterpiece of criminology. It seems to me that either Kobek’s painstaking deductions are correct, or we must urgently revise the laws of probability.” – Alan Moore, author of From Hell

Dear Reader,

This is not the Zodiac speaking. The one thing that I ask of you is this, please read this book. It is called How to Find Zodiac. Being that this book is about the Zodiac, it offers a new suspect. The theory is probably correct. At the moment the theory is unproven. But the idea is a bomb waiting to go massive. Can you see the flaws in the hunting method or will you just agree and say case closed. Either way one thing is true. Zodiac can never look and seem the same after you read this book. It was written by Jarett Kobek.

It will be interesting to see how Zodiac researchers react to Kobek’s research and suspect.

“The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes” – The Trailer is Here!

Although I doubt there will be any world-shaking revelations, I plan to tune in to The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes.  Like with almost everything these days, there’s a conspiracy theory.  The Marilyn Monroe conspiracy theory is that she was murdered because of her relationship with President Kennedy.

Since I have Netflix, this will be an easy choice to tune in.

Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe’s tragic death spawned conspiracies and rumors for decades, often overshadowing her talent and shrewdness. By piecing together her final weeks, days, and hours through previously unheard recordings of those who knew her best, the film illuminates more of her glamorous, complicated life, and offers a new perspective on that fateful night. Only on Netflix, April 27.

FRANK LEE, AFTER ALCATRAZ by David Hasteda and Ludovic Chesno is Coming!

Frank Lee, After Alcatraz by writer, David Hasteda and artist, Ludovic Chesno looks and sounds interesting.

In June 1962, Frank Lee Morris did the unthinkable and broke free from Alcatraz prison! Celebrating the 60th anniversary of his incredible escape, this thrilling graphic novel imagines what Frank Lee did next…

Bank Robber. Escape Artist. Genius.

But on June 11th 1962, Frank Lee Morris performed the most daring feat of them all: escaping from Alcatraz. He was never found, presumed to have drowned in San Francisco Bay. The FBI’s case remains open to this day.

But what if he survived that fateful night? A free man. A second chance. What did he do then? Follow Frank in this stunning graphic novel on his journey from villainous convict to finding sanctuary and starting a new life, full of heartache, sorrow and a profound bittersweet acceptance.

Immortalized by Clint Eastwood in the 1979 film, Escape From Alcatraz, writer David Hasteda and artist Ludovic Chesnot imagine just what Frank’s life might have been like after performing one of the most dangerous escapes of all time.

Below are a couple of preview pages.  You can see more on Amazon and if you’re so inclined pre-orderFrank Lee, After Alcatraz will be released on June 28, 2022.

“The Survivor” Directed by Barry Levinson and Starring Ben Foster – The Trailer is Here!

Mark your calendars for April 27th.  That’s when The Survivor, directed by Barry Levinson and starring Ben Foster,
Vicky Krieps, Peter Sarsgaard, John Leguizamo and Danny DeVito premieres!  Check out the trailer below!

Barry Levinson’s biographical drama stars Ben Foster as boxer Harry Haft, who looks to carry on after fighting to survive in the Holocaust.

When the Nazis invade Poland, Harry Haft is sent to the Auschwitz extermination camp. He is a powerfully built man, so a charming but sadistic Nazi officer offers him an impossible deal: fight fellow prisoners in the boxing ring for the amusement of his captors, or die. The winner of the bout survives to fight again. The loser is shot or sent to the gas chamber. How far will Harry’s will to live take him? What will he do to escape the death all around him?

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (2018) / Z-View

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (2018)

Director:  Robert S. Bader

Writers:  Robert S. Bader, Dick Cavett

Starring:  Muhammad Ali, Dick Cavett, Joe Frazier, Woody Allen, Jimmy Breslin, Jim Brown, Howard Cosell, Angelo Dundee, Louis Farrakhan, Martin Luther King, Jerry Lewis, Joe Louis, Thomas Hauser. Lester Maddox. Norman Mailer, Malcolm X, Michael Marley  and Larry Merchant.

Tagline: None.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes is a wonderful documentary chronicling the life and boxing career of Muhammad Ali using clips from the Dick Cavett Show as the glue holding it together.  Ali not only led an interesting life, but lived in interesting and turbulent times.  It is fascinating to see how social changes and outside influences impacted Ali’s career.  As Ali matured he became more of his own man, the only three-time heavyweight champion and the most famous athlete in the world.  It’s an interesting journey and rates 5 of 5 stars!

“When We Were Kings” (1996) / Z-View

When We Were Kings (1996)

Director:  Leon Gast

Starring:  Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Don King, James Brown, B.B. King, Spike Lee, Norman Mailer, George Plimpton, The Spinners and Howard Cosell..

Tagline:  The untold story of the Rumble in the Jungle.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

When We Were Kings is the Academy Award-winning documentary of the championship fight between the undefeated (40-0) Heavyweight Champion of the World, George Foreman and his challenger, Muhammad Ali, who was a 4-1 underdog.  Promoter, Don King had contracts that paid each fighter $5 million and the backing of Mobutu Sese Seko, President of Zaire, who saw the fight as an opportunity to shine a positive light on his country.  To that end, the fight became a culminating event of a festival that included performances by The Spinners, B.B. King and James Brown.

Leon Gast, using archival footage and interviews does an excellent job in presenting the backstories of Ali and Foreman as well as the fight’s historical significance.  Ali had refused to enter the draft, became a Muslim and had changed his name from Cassius Clay.  While many Americans had developed a dislike for Ali, he was dearly loved by the population of Zaire.  George Foreman, was an Olympic Gold Medalist who proudly represented the USA, was the undefeated Champion of the World and the man who many thought would destroy Ali. The stage was set for what many thought would be the fight to end Muhammad Ali’s career… and yet, Ali once again shocks the world!

When We Were Kings is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen.  It pulls you in, sets the historical context of the events, provides backstories on the key players while at the same time being entertaining.  When We Were Kings rates 5 of 5 stars.